In which I have been thinking (god help you all)…

I don’t really know what I would have chosen for my second post, and this might not be the one I would have selected from some that I have lined up but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking (to anyone reading this who knows me, this will not come as a surprise, and for anyone who doesn’t but knows someone who does a lot of thinking, you may realise what this involves) about how to write about life, and I’ve done even more thinking this week. I imagine it can be deeply frustrating sometimes if you live with someone who thinks A LOT about things, but you’ll be getting the benefit of some very carefully considered decisions, ideas and opinions. Even if it takes 2 months to get to them…

Back to the particular topic of my recent thinking. It included why people might think I have bad mental health, and what people think causes bad mental health. I’m not a scientist (though I have the privilege of working with many), so it would be impossible for me to go down that road, and there’s plenty of literature available to try and help people understand if there are biological, chemical, psychological and many other -icals causes. I don’t blame anyone or anything in particular for my bad mental health, not least because I don’t actually know how long my mental health has been bad. I think I might have have episodes of what I know now to be depression long before I acknowledged that the reason I felt so terrible was because of depression, but those could have been times when I felt sad and a bit unhappy, but not depressed. There’s a difference, by the way (and what’s really hard once you know you suffer from depression is recognising that feeling sad occasionally is not the heralding of another episode). If you really put me on the spot, and please, try not to, because I detest being put on the spot – for understanding why, see the paragraph on thinking a lot and you will probably draw the correct conclusion – I do know that the first time I can say ‘oh that was depression’ was 6 years ago, 3 years before I got a diagnosis, and when, ironically, I had fallen in love. That’s a whole other story in which Original Acquaintance, who had been on the edges of my life for years before the falling in love thing, is likely to appear in future, but on the other Acquaintances front, you’ll get no more. Some of the others I’m lucky enough to still have in my life, which is all anyone needs to know.

I also know that when things eventually collapsed around me, it was in a very large part because, although I thought the counsellor I saw at the time was insane for saying so, I had been strong. To unpack that*, please read Depressive Illness: the curse of the strong by Tim Cantopher (if you want to buy a copy, the link is to Hive who support local bookshops – just saying). It is simply an excellent book, short, un-taxing, and describes the type of depression I have suffered from, and is the type of depression that I can write about here because I know what that is.

And I suspect I may come back to this again, but please don’t think that bad mental health is a consequence of a bad childhood. Or certainly that mine might have been. I have Matt Haig to thank for assuring me in his book Reasons to stay alive that I am not the only person to think ‘but I can’t have bad mental health, my childhood was great’. So you’ll be barking up the wrong tree if you think you’re going to get my teenage diary. Sorry! (Actually, I’m not. My teenage diary starts with a picture of Phillip Schofield sellotaped to the back of the front cover – please don’t judge me, nor on the use of the word unpack earlier*- and mostly catalogues how I didn’t like high school. Not revolutionary. I should say that I didn’t like school not because I didn’t like learning – I love learning! – but more that there were simply too many people in one place which as an introvert, so not my thing. Primary and middle school, whole other story – I adored primary school.)

Lastly for today, I know about a vast number of other mental health illness but I haven’t experienced those; regardless of that if you have any type of mental health illness, know that you are not alone, that you are loved and take it one minute, hour and day at a time. Might be the best advice I can give. Links to help are in About.

Time to talk

My ambition to get out there and talk about mental health is now open… This is a few weeks in the making, but years to actually get to the point where I needed to talk about my mental health. I’ve lived some stuff, but then honestly, after even a couple of decades on earth, let alone more than that, who hasn’t? I have told this fact to someone of my acquaintance a thousand times but it would seem to make no difference to their fear of feeling. Might not have been exactly an acquaintance (a tad closer than that and there’s a more than strong chance they will feature in the future of this), and a thousand times, sometimes that was a conversation conducted in my head when said person properly listened and took account of what I was saying, rather than ignoring me. But that’s a story for another time.

If you are dismissive of the impact of life on the living of it, then you are welcome to go away, but I’d much rather you stayed. If you have lived some stuff and not experienced bad mental health, by some luck of biology, personality, psychology or goodness knows what else, then consider yourself fortunate to have lived without your mind turning on it and telling you not to bother with the whole show at all. I’d prefer to have not experienced all that, but on the other hand, as with all life stuff, I’d be a different person, and the upshot of talking about my mental health is that I’m growing to like that person.

If you’ve stumbled across this because you are feeling, frankly, shit, and want to know there are other people who feel like that, or because you’re worried about someone who you think might be feeling shit, then I’d like to help in some small way. Chances of anyone stumbling across this for some time after posting are slim given it’s going to take a while to get my voice out there, but something you’ll learn (probably) from further reading is that I’m a hopelessly romantic optimist. Plus my counsellor is convinced I’m going to become a world-famous writer, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint her. Perhaps not world-famous. But I guess you have to aim for something…

So we’ll see what happens, and I look forward to meeting people along the way.